Playoffs?! PLAYOFFS?!?! You wanna talk about PLAYOFFS?!
Yeah, sure coach. Because it's mid-November and the teams are starting to separate between the pack of winners and the pack of losers, and the talk is gonna start on which teams are going to make it to January and February.
So whither the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
They're currently at 6 - 3 and tied for second in the NFC South division. Of the NFC teams, Tampa Bay is 7th on the playoff standings: the top 4 teams per division - New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle - and the wild cards New Orleans and Green Bay. The Saints and Packers are both 6 - 3 as well, winning their spots due to tiebreakers. So the Bucs ARE currently on the outside looking in (depending also on if Philly wins this Monday night).
There's seven weeks - seven games - left for the Bucs to fight their way into either the 2 wild card spots or (with huge luck) the NFC South title. Given the Falcons are 1 game above us, have the leg up with their win over us, and is pretty much the team to beat in the NFC, let's worry less about the division title and worry more about the wild cards...
Nov. 21 4 PM EST, AT 49ers - this is gonna be a messier game than the casual observer would know. The 49ers are in a losing season, that's true, but their offense is showing signs of life. The worse news? Tampa has a history of imploding on the West Coast, getting their butts handed to them (except for the Super Bowl in San Diego, which was under different circumstances). This could be a scary game... but the Bucs ought to win as their offense is in better shape than San Francisco's defense... WIN 7-3 record
Nov. 28 1 PM EST, AT Ravens - There are few teams in the whole NFL that are confirmed badasses this season. Baltimore's one of them. The Bucs may push themselves to win the previous week vs. the Niners simply because winning THIS game is beyond the impossible. LOSS 7-4 record
Dec. 5 1 PM EST, Falcons - the game that could clinch the NFC South for Atlanta as a win in Tampa would put the Bucs 2 games behind PLUS give Atlanta the tiebreaker. Both teams played tough, and the Bucs are going to want this a lot more than the Falcons will. Needing to rebound from the Baltimore loss makes this a Must-Win. WIN 8-4 record
Dec. 12 1 PM EST, AT Redskins - Washington always plays tougher against the Bucs than expected. The 'Skins will be struggling themselves to stay relevant in the East race. It all comes down to which team matchups favor whom. Our offense may be up for a win, but our defense could be vulnerable to a veteran QB who'll know how to take it to pieces. LOSS 8-5.
Dec. 19 1 PM EST, Lions - The bad news, the Bucs fans get to see just how good a DT Suh is. Freeman gets to see how Suh plays in person and up close. Ow Ow Ow. Good news is, Detroit's offense is probably the one unit the Bucs' Defense can feast upon. WIN 9-5
Dec. 26 1 PM EST, Seahawks - Depends a lot if A) Seattle clinched the West by this point, in which case they may rest up or B) if Seattle is in a struggle for the West, which right now is the only guarantee those West teams have of making the playoffs. The scary thing is that it's gonna be B), meaning the Bucs are going to be in a huge fight to win. It'll be close, with home field the best advantage the Bucs will have. WIN 10-5
Jan. 2 1 PM EST, AT Saints - Bucs will have 10 wins. Saints might have 10 wins or 9 wins. The 2nd place spot in the South is on the line. The Number 5 spot for the wild card most likely up for grabs too. The Saints proved they can spank the Bucs and may have their running attack back and healthy by now. Either way a Saints win happens, they move to the second spot in the South and a guaranteed playoff spot. LOSS 10-6 record for the Bucs.
This is, of course, best case scenario. This all depends then on who gets the 6th spot. If either of these teams - Bears, Packs, Eagles - are also at 10-6 (likely) or even higher, either way locking the Bucs out of the playoffs.
Can the Bucs win more than 10 games? That is, right now, the ONLY way I see it that Tampa Bay can make the playoffs. At 10 games, we'll be needing a ton of bad math to eliminate the other teams. At 9 games... most likely not, the math for that is worse...
So... how do you all see the individual games facing the Bucs between here and January?